This past year has been like being flattened by a freight train, and I’m only just now picking myself up and straightening out my limbs. After being perpetually unwell for pretty much twelve months due to stress and working too hard, I have resolved to do something about my work-life balance this year and to stop working on weekends. That is kind of happening, which is good, but hence the lateness of this post. Anyways, here are my literary doings for 2016.
In July my short story ‘Melliodora’ was published alongside William Lane’s ‘Vivienne’s Fingers’ in the Review of Australian Fiction. I’ve always loved Bill’s writing and was very happy to be working alongside him with this issue. It was a short piece, but most of my creative work seems to be like that of late, probably because my time is so compressed.
In August, my short story ‘Unfurling’ was published in Griffith Review. I’d been working on this story for nearly two decades so I was really glad it found a home!
I also read an extract of the work at the Powerhouse at an event organised by Griffith Review, which was a wonderful evening.
In November, my short story ‘Old Honey’, which was shortlisted for the 2015Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize, was published on adda. I worked with Grenada-born writer Jacob Ross, a fellow of the Royal Society for Literature, to edit the piece, which was illuminating.
Also in November, my essay on Rosa Praed and her deaf daughter Maud was published in the Sydney Review of Books. I love this journal – their essayists are splendid and the editor Catriona Menzies-Pike has been commissioning really interesting work – so I was delighted to be published on their pages.
My essay on Dorothy Cottrell, an artist and writer from the Queensland outback who spent her life in a wheelchair, was also published in Queensland Review. One day, when I eventually find some time, I’ll expand this research into a book.
As I have funding to write my ecobiography for another two years I haven’t been seeking any extra cash – instead, I’m trying to save what I earn so that I can write for a few years once my postdoc finishes. However I was successful in winning an internal grant at the university to do a study on gender and vernacular criticism. This will pay for a research assistant to look at stats and compare the content of written reviews with online reviews.
In terms of awards, my short story ‘Black Soil’ was also longlisted for the Elizabeth Jolley Short Story prize. I would have liked to have entered more competitions but there just wasn’t enough time.
In the second half of last year I was a tutor for a course on women writers convened by Professor Carole Ferrier. This was one of the best classes I’ve ever taught, covering books such as Simone de Beauvoir’s She Came to Stay, Elizabeth Jolley’s The Well, Keri Hulme’s The Bone People, Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby and Monique Wittig’s The Lesbian Body. My students responded really well to the texts, as well as being motivated, politically savvy and articulate. I was hugely impressed with all of them. In the second half of this year I’ll be convening this course, though with slightly different texts.
Conferences and Presentations
In July I attended the annual conference for the Association for the Study of Australian Literature at Canberra. Usually I love these conferences but I was a bit too stressed this time around as I was moving house and, having turned into a wussy Queenslander, the cold rain really got me down.
At the end of the year I was in much sunnier climes in Sydney, where I was delighted to take part in a symposium on Nineteenth Century Australian women’s writing.
I also presented a paper on ecobiography at the bi-annual ASLEC-ANZ environmental humanities conference, then headed to Fremantle for the International Australian Studies Association conference. Where the paper I presented in Canberra was on violent clashes between Noongars and white colonists, this paper was on the positive interactions between them.
Another highlight was presenting on Georgiana Molloy at the inaugural Science Writing Festival at the NSW Writers’ Centre.
My research was huge this year, consisting of background reading on environment, literature and Aboriginal relationships to Country, as well as archival research. I made two trips to Western Australia. For the first I was based in Perth, copying archives about the colonisation of the south west by Europeans. For the second I was travelling around the south west of Western Australia to get an idea of the country through which Molloy moved. This year I’m travelling to England to look at the archives of the men to whom her specimens were distributed, and I’ll also head up to Scotland as Georgiana spent time there with her friends and I want to get a sense of the environment which formed her impressions of landscape. In all this I have been aided by Bernice Barry’s comprehensive biography The Mind That Shines, which is a fantastic resource.
The Australian Women Writers Challenge
Sadly, after five years, this was my last year as editor of diversity for the AWW Challenge. I’ve been too pressed for time and am trying to cut back on the amount of work that I’m doing. I coordinated a focus on Australian women writers with disability, and another one on Australian women writers of migrant background, and also arranged an interview with Indigenous author Melissa Lucashenko. I came to know some lovely writers through this, including poet Eileen Chong and fiction writer Michelle Cahill. I was already familiar with Melissa Lucashenko, Lee Kofman, Gaele Sobott and Amanda Tink and it was great to talk to them further as I coordinated the posts. I also penned my thoughts on fiction for young readers with disability.
The Year Ahead
Gosh, well, we’re already into February! After feedback from my brother and writer friends in November, I realised that my draft of Hearing Maud was dull & still too academic, and that I had to rewrite it (for the fifth time). I spent all of Christmas & New Year working on it, and now I only need another week to edit it. Then I’m going to let it fallow for a bit so that I can return to it with fresh eyes and do one final draft. As my time was so constrained this year, trying to get this book across the finishing line has been ridiculous.
The two books for which I won OzCo grants, The Sea Creatures and When the World Shivered, are going to have to wait until I’m done with the postdoc. I didn’t get to my poems, as I had wanted to, but I'm still planning on writing a novella based on my experiences in Rome. Often, I wish there were two of me as there’s so much I want to write and no time to get to it, and sometimes I feel like I’m going mad. In the meantime, though, there is my ecobiography, which is going well and which is a delight to research and write.
And hopefully I'll get some time to relax, as my writing companion Hudson demonstrates admirably.